Paris 2024: France Télévisions head of production in charge of Olympic and Paralympic Games Frédéric Gaillard talks innovations and logistics

France Télévisions is working with three physical studios. Pictured is a mock up of Club France, in the Grande Halle de la Villette, in the east of Paris. This is the home of Team France and its 900 athletes competing in the Games, and the studio located out the front of the building will be dedicated to TV channel, France 3

Ahead of Paris 2024, we caught up with France Télévisions’ Frédéric Gaillard, head of production in charge of Olympics and Paralympics Games, to find out how the French rights holder for the Games is tackling this epic event’s coverage on its home ground.

Hi Frédéric. I’ve heard you’ve worked on a lot of Games. How many Olympics have you worked on so far?

I’ve been covering the Olympics since Barcelona 1992. Paris will be my eleventh Olympics.

How have you seen Olympic coverage evolve over that period?

We were on SD in Barcelona in 1992, HD in Beijing in 2008, and to remote production (the sets in Beijing and the control rooms in Paris), and this year UHD.

Are you throwing everything at this production because it’s in your home country?

We are using 90% of the resources of the France Télévisions group – La Fabrique – and we will be more than 1,000 people mobilised on these Olympics and Paralympics. We can say that we are doing everything possible to ensure that the coverage is total.

What are your major challenges overall on this one?

The multiplication of live locations and therefore of technical means forces us to be more demanding in terms of implementation and processes.

The main challenge lies in the fact that there are three simultaneous aerials 24 hours a day on three remote sites where our studios are located.

As with any event of this scale, logistics are paramount. We have to manage the movements of 42 pairs of commentators spread across the country. And that there are more than 1,000 technical and editorial staff involved, to whom we will have to provide technical and above all logistical answers.

Are you producing blanket coverage of this event?

For the Olympic Games, OBS is in charge of the international signals at all the venues. For the Paralympics Games, OBS is also in charge of the venues, but we will be covering power lifting, badminton, taekwondo, wheelchair fencing and wheelchair tennis.

What’s the live output for France Télévisions?

For the Olympics, we will be on air 24 hours a day on our two premium channels, France 2 and France 3 in linear, and Paris 2024 in digital. This represents over 1,000 hours of live coverage.

For the Paralympics Games, we will be on air 24 hours a day alternately on our France 2 and France 3 channels in linear and offering all the competitions on Paris 2024 in digital format. This represents more than 300 hours of linear coverage and 1,500 hours of digital coverage.

Who else are you working closely with on this?

With Gilles Silard, who is my director. We’re working in close collaboration because the project is complicated. We use all the technical resources of our group – La Fabrique – and these resources are coordinated by Laurence Beyssac. We also work with technical partners such as Vidélio, Magnum, Dushow, microFilm and Absys, and Impact.

What workflow innovations are you working with?

We decided not to set up at the IBC Le Bourget as is usually the case for the Olympics, but at France Télévisions’ headquarters. We’re recreating a little ‘FTV IBC’.

We’re going to do everything from our headquarters. We decided to transport all the competitions and all the private cameras present on the IBC sites to France Télévisions. This represents a bandwidth of 700Gbit, all transported on ST2110.

We have created an traffic/MCR specific to send all feeds embedded with commentary and world audio to the various control rooms to produce the three programmes for our two linear and one digital channels.

What is your camera set up?

We’ve kept the model used at the previous Olympics and we’ll be using remote cameras, with three control rooms and an OB van (UM1) at headquarters and the sets elsewhere in Paris.

The France 2 set will be at the Trocadéro with its 13 UHD cameras (remote Sony, crane, aerial camera, camera on rail, etc), our France 3 set will be at La Villette at Club France with its 15 cameras (remote Sony, crane, aerial camera, camera on rail, radio camera, etc,) and our digital set will be in the France Televisions hall with its five cameras (remote Sony, cinematic, etc).

How many trucks does it take to work the Olympics?

Two OB vans, both our own: UM1 at our headquarters for France 2’s UHD broadcast, and UM3 at the Stade de France for athletics.

Are there any particular challenges around cabling at for the Olympics?

At head office, the first cabling work has started because connecting the control rooms to our nodal/traffic system is a long and complicated job, because during this time the control rooms are running on a daily basis.

On a site like the Stade de France, we are subject to OBS rules and the cabling windows are only a few days wide, so you don’t want to have forgotten a cable…

What’s the studio set up?

Our two main sets are remote, so we have wired our two studios at Trocadéro and La Villette to bring the cameras directly back to headquarters. These are temporary studios in Lahyer structures that will be dismantled afterwards, one after the Games and the other after the Paralympic events.

Who are the presenters?

They are the emblematic figures from the sports department, such as Laurent Luyat, Matthieu Lartot, Cécile Grés, Claire Voquier Ficot, and from the news programmes, such as Laurent Delhousse, Anne-Sophie Lapix, and others. The list is long because it involves almost all of France Televisions’ resources.

Who’s doing the graphics?

The graphics for the international signals are those of OBS, then we dress up our programmes with our usual graphic charter, revamped in the colours of the Olympic Games.

What about the data? Who’s doing it and why?

We use the organiser’s data, especially for our editing systems, so that we can retrieve information as quickly as possible. A large database created by OBS is available to us and is used extensively by our journalists. The rest is included in the International Signal supplied.

Are there any audio innovations?

With the transition of our antennas to UHD, we have decided to work in Dolby Atmos.

What are the challenges for audio at the Olympics?

We have 75 international feeds plus 42 commentator positions, 42 mixed interview zones, 50 camera crews and over 100 microphones on our sets, not to mention the order networks… That says it all. This will be an unprecedented challenge for La Fabrique’s technical teams.

What are your expectations for France Télévisions’ coverage of this Olympics? 

I would like all French people to be able to see the Olympics and the Olympic Games at least once. This is our role as a public service.

Final question – are you ready?

We are never ready, but the big decisions are made and the Olympic Games have already started for us with the torch relay in France since 8 May.


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